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Dancing With The Stars Preview: The Women

by Brett Love, posted Mar 14th 2008 9:21AM

Kristi Yamaguchi, Marlee Matlin, Shannon Elizabeth, Monica Seles, Marissa Winokur, and Priscilla Presley from Dancing With The Stars
Yes, it's that time of the television season once again. The fine folks over at ABC are back with another round of Dancing With The Stars. The competition kicks off for real on Monday, but Erin and I thought it would be fun to see what everyone thinks about this latest group of contestants before they all hit the dance floor. Who looks to be the favorite? And who looks to be in trouble before the show even begins. After the jump, I'll take a look at the ladies competing in season six.

Marlee MatlinMarlee Matlin just might be the most interesting contestant heading into the competition. After all, she's deaf. How is that going to work? Just the idea behind that already fascinates me. And if that wasn't interesting enough, it's Marlee Matlin! She has an Academy Award and a ton of great TV credits. The West Wing, The L Word, Nip/Tuck, My Name Is Earl.

That name recognition should go a long way for her, and the years of performing for the cameras can't hurt. I do believe that her hearing will ultimately be a non-story. The wild card with Marlee right now appears to be her partner. Fabian Sanchez is making his DWTS debut. Winning the US Mambo Championship is nothing to scoff at, but we haven't seen how he works with an amateur partner, or how he responds to choreographing new performances week after week. For more how Marlee came to be on the show, who she thinks her competition is, and her thoughts on the ballroom wardrobe, she answers 11 questions over at the AOL site.

Marissa WinokurMarissa Jaret Winokur is, perhaps, the other side of the Marlee Matlin coin. Her resume does include some great entries. A Tony Award for creating the role of Tracy Turnblad in the Broadway musical Hairspray is rather impressive. Unfortunately, I'm not sure how many DWTS viewers will even be aware of that going in. When I first saw her, the first thing that came to mind was her role on Stacked.

On the other hand, while those Broadway successes might have gone unseen by a large part of the audience, that kind of training could pay off big for her here. Clearly she's comfortable performing in front of a live audience, and she has more dance background than the average contestant. Drawing Tony Dovolani as her partner is another check in the plus column. He has consistently done a great job making his partners better.

Monica SelesMonica Seles is the name on the women's roster that surprised me the most when the cast listing came out. Not that I don't think she's up to this challenge, I just haven't thought of her in years. She seemed to disappear, at least off of my personal pop culture map. I'm happy to welcome her back to this geography though, because in her playing days I was a huge fan. In fact, I'll still happily argue that she is the best women's tennis player ever.

How that tennis skill translates to the ballroom, now that is the question. I think her work ethic and determination could help a lot. And I really like the pairing with Jonathan Roberts. He's not the flashiest of the choreographers, but he rarely misses the mark. Ya know, except for that crazed doll thing with Marie last season.

Priscilla PresleyPriscilla Presley is a contestant that I can't really get a bead on. Just based on what we know about the other contestants, my guess is that she is going to be out-danced more often than not. I think she has the potential for some big scores in a waltz, and Louis van Amstel is certainly up to the task as her partner.

What really clouds the issue is the popular vote. How big is the Elvis contingent with DWTS? Could she go on a Billy Ray type run where she makes it through week after week, even if she is out-danced. Not that I think her dancing is going to fall anywhere near the level of Billy Ray's. I do think her performance with the voting public has a chance to follow that track though.

Kristi YamaguchiKristi Yamaguchi should be one of the early favorites. There is certainly precedent for contestants with Olympic skating medals to do well in the competition. Add to that the fact that she has spent years performing in front of huge crowds, and being scored on those performances. The nerves should not be a problem for Kristi.

The big question, of course, is how the graceful moves of a skater translate when the skates make way for the heels. My bet is on very well, and Mark Ballas should prove to be an excellent partner. I'm glad to see him back with a partner that has a real shot, because I still think he left too early in his last go.

Shannon ElizabethShannon Elizabeth is probably the girl most perfectly suited to wear ballroom dancing gowns since Stacy Keibler was making her way across the hardwood. And if the pre-season pictures are any indication, she may even give Edyta a run for the least clothing worn week to week. There is no denying Shannon's beauty, and I fully expect some incredibly revealing outfits. I do wonder if that couldn't come back to hurt her though. One thing I've noticed again and again in the comments over the seasons here is that there is a number of people that don't like it. It will be interesting to see how that plays out.

As far as the dancing is concerned, I really have no idea. In all the things I've seen her in, I don't recall anything that really suggested any aptitude for dance. There's a little question mark there, but I think it's offset by name recognition and the fact that she's a competitor. She dedicated herself to poker and managed third place in the National Heads-Up Championship. That takes work. And that kind of work ethic, combined with teaching and choreography from Derek Hough, could get her a long way in the competition.

So, those are the ladies for season six. Now the two big questions. Who is the pre-season favorite, and who is the most likely to be the first to leave? First to leave is a tough call, but I have it coming down to Monica Seles and Marissa Jaret Winokur. I think Marissa starts out behind just based on name recognition, but will have the opportunity to overtake Monica with a great performance. If I have to pick one, it would be Monica as the first woman leaving the stage.

As to the pre-season favorite, that's another tough one. I think Shannon Elizabeth has all kinds of upside, but we just don't know what her dance skills are going to be like. Because of those questions, I have Kristi Yamaguchi as my pre-season pic as the woman most likely to win the whole thing. Hit up the polls and we'll check back at the end of the season to see how we all did.

And, as always, if you just can't get enough of the show, check out AOL's extensive Dancing With The Stars coverage. They have videos, photo galleries, polls and a live chat. (Mondays & Tuesdays, 7:30 ET)

Who is your pre-season favorite?
Marissa Winokur47 (6.0%)
Marlee Matlin82 (10.4%)
Shannon Elizabeth144 (18.3%)
Monica Seles53 (6.7%)
Kristi Yamaguchi424 (53.7%)
Priscilla Presley39 (4.9%)

Who is most likely to be leaving first?
Kristi Yamaguchi14 (1.9%)
Marissa Winokur185 (25.2%)
Shannon Elizabeth69 (9.4%)
Monica Seles202 (27.5%)
Priscilla Presley234 (31.8%)
Marlee Matlin31 (4.2%)

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Where is MAX!! I miss him!!!

March 20 2008 at 10:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Judy H.

Where is Maxim?????? He is the best dancer on DWTS!!! This is going to be a ho-hum season without him!!!!!

March 17 2008 at 8:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I love DWTS!! I'm always curious to see how these pro football players break the stereotype of being an unrefined jock.

BTW, is anyone playing the last 2 game this season?


March 16 2008 at 12:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Re: your Marlee Matlin comments...

There's a lot you can do with lighting and physical cues. Just look at this awesome video, supposed to be done in Taiwan with all-deaf girls.

Thousand Hand Guan Yin : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgHmSdpjEIk

In Marlee's case, though, she does wear a hearing aid from time to time, and I believe she'll be wearing one sometimes during the competition. Last week, I spotted that Starkey (hearing aid manufacturer) Foundation has a blurb up about it on their website.


Marlee's probably the only reason why I'd watch any reality television. But wow, Monica Seles? Its good to see her again.

March 14 2008 at 10:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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